This is where the next chapter of the historic rivalry between Huntley and Cary-Grove ends: at the free throw line with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter.
“It came down to toughness with the basketball,” said Raiders head coach Steve Raethz.
It’s Saturday afternoon and the Raiders hold a 9-point lead with freshman sensation and leading-scorer Ali Andrews ready to shoot two at the charity stripe. She’s already scored 12 points and has sparked the team in intensity with a couple of free throws, an easy layup after a Hail Mary pass down court, a block, and a slam of the Trojans’ Joslyn Nicholson on a jump ball…all in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter.
Andrews and the Raiders have lost just one conference game this season—Cary-Grove took that one—and are a few free throws and a few minutes of solid defense from clinching the Valley Division and beating C-G for the second time in 7 years.
But that’s not how this chapter was written.
Andrews bangs her free throws off the rim, giving way to a pair of consecutive 3-pointers by Cary-Grove sophomore Katie Barker. Huntley junior Bethany Zornow sinks two free throws—a dash of hope—but the Trojans tie the game at 37 with two layups and a free throw off of three consecutive steals.
Huntley’s toughness gives way.
After draining the clock and sending the game to overtime, the Trojans win the jump ball, the Trojans take an early lead, the Trojans watch the air ball 3 and hit their own, they watch Huntley senior Hailey Ream foul out, the Trojans hit two more free throws, they watch the Raiders miss their free throws, the Trojans hit their own Hail Mary pass and layup, they watch Huntley junior Sam Andrew foul out, and the Trojans have the on-court celebration, team photo and dinner included.
The Raiders stand in the dust, heads hanging down as they trudge to the locker room.
Huntley (21-5 overall, 10-2 Fox Valley Conference) did not take its 50-44 loss to Cary-Grove (19-6, 10-1) lightly in its final away game of the regular season. Although the Raiders fell in a thriller, Raethz still saw a strong performance in his team.
“I think our team played exceptionally well for 29 minutes,” Raethz said. “It was those last three minutes that we didn’t do a very good job with handling pressure.”
The magical night belonged to Olivia Jakubicek, not Ali, as the senior guard scored a game-high 21 points to become the second-highest scorer in Cary’s history, behind her sister Claire. Ali and Sam led the Raiders with 14 points.
The Raiders’ next big challenge is their regional game on Feb. 12 against DeKalb, the team that knocked them out in the playoffs last year.
“There’s a lot left to play for this season in terms of what we want to accomplish,” Raethz said.
But for now, the latest chapter of the heated rivalry between the Raiders and Trojans repeats itself in the minds of Huntley players.
“We didn’t stay tough,” Ali said. “We weren’t tough enough.”
Photos by: Mike Krebs/The Voice